How will we elect the next president?
Presidential elections are supposedly about choosing a leader to manage the most important current and future issues for America and its citizens. As always, we ultimately choose between two prospective candidates. It’s an interview process. Which of these two candidates will be best at addressing countless issues that will protect and serve us?
The issues tend to fall into three different buckets: 1). Things that touch us personally; 2). Issues for the good of the country; and 3). Issues about each candidate’s character.
Most leaders and political experts would agree that the following list includes most of the important issues facing Americans: Jobs and the economy, protection from terrorism, healthcare, the national debt, social security, guns, crime, race relations, immigration, illegal drugs, the environment, ISIS-Al-Qaeda-Iran-Russia, and climate change.
Compared to the issues above, here are the issues that the candidates have addressed in the past weeks:
1. The release of Donald Trump’s tax returns.
2. The release of transcripts of Hillary Clintons speeches to large Wall Street audiences.
3. The FBI investigation of Clinton’s private email server and classified documents.
4. Trump’s remarks on banning Muslims, and protecting the southern border with a wall.
Do these four subjects promise any “hope and change?” My take on them:
Trump can make the tax return issue go away by releasing the returns. If and when he releases them, they’ll be too voluminous and complex to produce anything concrete or enlightening. Most people of Trump’s financial level have lawyers and accountants negotiating with the IRS for months. If and when he releases the returns they will be far too complex for journalists to take apart. They would need to hire a large accounting firm which would take months to analyze them. Reporters would, therefore, take the lazy route of seizing on a few “nuggets,” and creating unsupportable storylines. Why would Trump put himself in a defensive no-win position by releasing the returns?
The release of Mrs. Clinton’s speech transcripts would similarly put her in a no-win position. Since we don’t know what’s in them, we have a choice of two conclusions. The first hypothetical conclusion is that she said some “secret” things that would be politically unpalatable to some voters. This conclusion is possible but unlikely. Clinton always takes positions that her audience will approve. Though she may contradict herself from one audience to another, she skillfully changes vocabulary and offers a new meaning for any offensive phrase. Since her $225,000 speaking fees would have to address large audiences, leaks of any controversial statement would have already occurred. A more probable explanation is that there is nothing of special interest in any of her speeches, despite the large speaker’s fees. Though somewhat unfair, that fact would give rise to questions like, “What did the money buy? Did it buy access or inside information? Or were the fees for favors she could provide as Secretary of State?” Once again, whether or not she releases the transcripts, they will provide only political noise.
Media people report so-called news daily, about the FBI investigation of Clinton’s private email server and classified documents. Republicans claim to know that she will soon face and indictment. Democrats proclaim that there is nothing to investigate. They insist that Clinton did nothing illegal. They claim to know that the FBI has cleared Clinton of any wrong-doing. Both sides are spinning nonsense. Only the FBI and DOJ know the status of the investigation. There are no leaks. Any FBI or DOJ employee leaking to the media would face immediate dismissal and possible criminal charges. The FBI would identify the leaker. That’s what they do. So no one is talking. Like the media, pundits, and politicians, we, the public, can only speculate. My guess: The FBI and DOJ will have plenty of evidence, but will not make any criminal charges. They will admonish the State Department and Clinton for carelessness. This conclusion will be the equivalent of a public slap-on-the-wrist. Republicans will nevertheless use it to paint Clinton as untrustworthy.
We can also draw either of two conclusions regarding Trump’s remarks about banning Muslims. Conclusion number one: Trump made an incredibly stupid remark in one of his unscripted, off-the-cuff speeches. As usual, he will not walk-back any remark, regardless of pressures from opponents or media. To be fair, presidential candidates make as many as ten speeches a day, as well as a few private meetings. They all make a few blunders. For example, Bernie Sanders received boos and cat-calls recently when he faced a large crowd in Sioux Falls, SD and called the location Sioux City, a municipality in Iowa. And Clinton spoke before miners in West Virgina and announced that she’d be cutting mines and jobs for miners. The more likely reason for Trump’s remark about banning Muslims is that he believes that a majority of Americans fear the arrival of large Muslim populations, due to terrorism and other publicized problems in European countries. Though relatively few Americans articulate those fears, Trump may believe that the fears are inescapable, though most people will not openly voice them. Rhetoric aside, a President Trump couldn’t ban Muslims, due to legal constraints, lack of Congressional support, and social unrest.
Aside from the Muslim-ban issue, Trump faces criticism about Latino issues, like building a southern border wall, and removing illegal immigrants from the country. These statements appear to be part of a calculated political decision. Though they anger Latinos, Trump may believe that he’ll gain more new voters who are upset about our poorly protected border, and perceived loss of jobs to low-paid immigrants.
Memo to Republicans and Democrats: Stop the nonsense of empty issues that don’t help the country or the people. So far, neither candidate supports issues that will provide a government that works. Each party is about to nominate one of the least popular politicians in America. Voters currently see their choices as an untrustworthy insider versus a bigoted loose cannon. To get this right, you must pivot to the genuine issues, and forget attack issues like the four current “gotchas” that serve no one.